Why I Love Being An Indie Author #amwriting #indieauthor #selfpublishing

 

And I really do. So I was delighted to do a guest post on the reasons why for Kate’s marvellous book blog. This post also nicely rounds off the publicity posts for my latest indie novel Settlement. Kate aka @The Quiet Knitter is an awesome book blogger and she is very supportive of indie authors and publishers. So, thank you, Kate.

You can read the post on Kate’s blog here.

Another great review for Settlement

I can’t imagine not writing. I just love it so much. Even if nobody read my scribblings I reckon I’d still have to keep on doing it. But if even one person reads and enjoys what I produce then that’s a bonus. But of course I’m delighted when more than one person does.

I love getting positive feedback and reviews – even the less positive but constructive reactions are helpful.

I really appreciate when readers who have already done enough by buying and reading my books, also take the time and trouble to review them – whether that’s on one of the online retailer sites or on their book blogs. This all helps spread the word to other potential readers and it does my writer’s ego good as well…

And today I certainly got that ego boosted when I read book blogger Joanne’s wonderful review of Settlement. What I especially loved was that she totally got what I was trying to say in the novel and she appreciated the subtleties of the title. This was a thoughtful and, to me, very special review.

You can read her review on her Portobello Book Blog here.

You can get a copy of Settlement here

 

 

Back to its Roots: Children’s Novel – The Silver Locket – visits @CullodenNTS

 

I was delighted to be invited to be part of a community day at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre which took place on Sunday 25th November 2018. The event was aimed at local people for whom entry to the centre throughout the day was free – although non-locals were welcome too.

I was asked to do an author talk about my novel for children – The Silver Locket. It’s a timeslip novel aimed at 9 to 12 year-olds. And, as the main characters are three twenty-first century children who find themselves transported back in time to the aftermath of the battle of Culloden, (it has been described as an Outlander for children) the book was felt to be a good fit for the event.

It also helped that I got the idea for the novel when I visited the centre on a school trip from the Isle of Skye with my Primary 6 (10 & 11 year-olds) pupils.

 

Background to the book

The children were learning all about the background to the battle of Culloden – about the Jacobites led by Bonnie Prince Charlie and their struggles to remove King George II from the throne and to have the Prince crowned king of Britain. It was hoped the visit to Culloden would bring this period in history to life for the children. And it most certainly did. Not only is the visitor centre – with its information, displays, artefacts, immersion room, and battlefield tours – totally superb, the education staff are second-to-none.

But it wasn’t only the children who were affected by what we saw on the day of our visit. I was too. When the education staff took us out onto the battlefield and we recreated the ‘Highland Charge’ where the Jacobite army (made up mostly but not exclusively of Scottish Highlanders) charged at the British Redcoat army, an idea popped into my head. An idea about three modern-day children finding themselves back… You know the rest.

At the time as well as being a teacher I was also a writer. I was writing – still am – contemporary fiction for adults. But I had no intention of writing for children. Except the idea wouldn’t go away.

And, in the end, I wrote the book and I used the author name of my alter-ego Anne McAlpine in order to keep my two writing identities separate. And in 2015, The Silver Locket was published.

Guest appearance

So, it was good to be back at the Culloden Visitor Centre and to be part of their well-attended community event. I never dreamt on the day of the school visit that one day in the future, I’d be back as the author of a children’s book, that the book would be set at Culloden, and that I’d be  there doing an author event. And I must say I really enjoyed doing some readings from my novel and sharing the background to the book – back where it all started.

Thank you to the National Trust for Scotland and to Catriona and the staff at the centre for the invitation, the warm welcome, and the opportunity to be part of your event.

You can read more about The Silver Locket below and you can buy it here.

From the back cover of The Silver Locket

The Battle of Culloden, 1746, and Bonnie Prince Charlie is defeated. Can three young friends from the 21st century ensure he escapes and that history stays on track?

A time-travelling mission, a very big adventure. Three twenty-first century friends and an eighteenth-century prince have a date with destiny…

It’s the last week of the school holidays and twelve year old Caitlin Cameron is bored. But when her new childminder turns out to be the eccentric Bella Blawearie, otherwise known as Scary Lady, everything changes.

Scary Lady lives up to her name. She seems able to read Caitlin’s mind. She sees visions in a snow globe and tells the time from a patchwork clock.

And things get even weirder when Caitlin and her two best friends, Lynette and Edward, accidentally open a time portal in an old tree and are hurled back through time to the eighteenth century.

They find themselves caught up in the blood-soaked aftermath of the Jacobite defeat at the battle of Culloden, and discover they’re there for a reason. A reason Scary Lady knows all about.

But all the friends have is questions. What is the significance of the silver locket passed to Caitlin by her grandmother? Can the locket help them ensure Bonnie Prince Charlie makes the right decision about his future?

And if they fail, will Scotland’s history books rewrite themselves, meaning  Caitlin and her friends will not even be born?

Join them in their 18th century adventure as they make new friends, encounter great danger and strive to carry out their mission.

 

 

New Book

Out Now

Yes, at last it’s here! My new novel Settlement is now available. It’s the book I never planned to write – the sequel to Displacement. I thought I’d told all of Rachel and Jack’s story but readers of Displacement told me no. They insisted there was more to tell. And they were right. So much so – I’m now planning the third and final – yes final – part of this unexpected trilogy.

And, although it’s a sequel, I’ve written it so it can be read as a standalone – but of course I’d love it if people read both.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending more time with Rachel and Jack and their families and friends. I hadn’t realised how much I missed them and I can’t wait to get cracking on the final instalment.

 

So what’s it about?

Falling in love is the easy bit. Happy ever after requires work, commitment and honesty.

She wants him to be her friend and lover. He wants her as his wife. Can a compromise be reached? Or are things truly over between them?

When former Edinburgh policeman Jack Baxter met crofter and author Rachel Campbell at her home on the Scottish island of Skye, they fell in love. It was a second chance at happiness for them both.

But after Jack proposes marriage, it becomes clear they want different things.

Then, as Rachel prepares to return to the Middle East to work on a peacemaking project that’s close to her heart, and as Jack’s past catches up with him, it seems their relationship is doomed.

Can Rachel compromise on her need to maintain her hard-won independence?

Can Jack survive the life-threatening situation in which he finds himself?

Will they get the chance to put things right between them?

If you like a complex, grown-up romance with lots of raw emotion, dramatic and exotic settings, all mixed in with some international politics and laced with elements of a crime thriller, then this is the book for you.

Availability:

Settlement is available online as a paperback and as an ebook or, if you prefer, your local bookshop should be able to get it for you.

Online links:

Amazon UK Kindle

Amazon UK Paperback

Amazon US Kindle

Amazon US Paperback

Speech: The Joy of Giving an Author Talk – At Short Notice #amwriting

microphone Kane Reinholdsten Unsplash
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

My neighbour came to the door last Sunday afternoon. Said she had a favour to ask. I thought she was going to ask me to look after her cat for a few days. But no, that wasn’t it. She is president of the local branch of the Scottish Women’s Institute (SWI) and the speaker lined up for Tuesday evening’s meeting had just cancelled. The speaker, a lecturer in catering and hospitality at the local college, had been going to give a cookery demonstration and my neighbour wondered if I could step in.

Thankfully for me and the prospective audience I wasn’t being invited to do anything cookery related. But if I could come and give an author talk that would be fantastic.

Without pausing to consider that I would have very little time to prepare, I agreed.

And I’m very glad that I did.

I found, as I often do, that I work better under pressure and by recycling and redrafting previous author talks that I’ve given, I’d soon tailored what I was going to say for my prospective audience. The short notice also meant I didn’t really have time to get nervous.

I was made very welcome by the SWI members and thoroughly enjoyed doing the talk which was warmly received. I spoke a bit about myself, about my journey to publication, and about the inspiration behind my various books. I was also able to do some publicity for my new novel – due out at the end of August. Then I finished by reading a couple of extracts from two of my books.

And the bonus was I completely sold out the box of books I’d taken with me – and took orders for more copies from those whom I couldn’t supply on the night.

It has been lovely too, since the talk, to receive cards and other correspondence from audience members saying how much they enjoyed the evening.

All-in-all, it was a very successful – if impromptu – author talk. Actually, quite invigorating. And a great chance to do some pre-publicity for Settlement whilst encouraging people to read Displacement, the first book in the series.

So thank you to the SWI – which you can read more about here if you’re interested – and here’s to seizing the day.

Do you enjoy speaking about your work – writing or other? Have you ever had to give a talk at short notice? Did it go well?

Reflections on a Writing Conference

I spent last weekend at the annual Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) Conference, and, as always it was an enjoyable couple of days.

It was held, as it has been for the last few years, in the lovely Westerwood Hotel in Cumbernauld near Glasgow. And the hotel staff along with the amazingly hard-working, volunteer members of the SAW council ensured the whole thing ran very smoothly.

There were a variety of workshops to choose from and I went to three:

SELF-PUBLISHED FROM MANUSCRIPT TO MARKET – this was led by the director of an assisted and highly reputable publishing company. It was a good overview of the process of self-publishing but understandably he took the view that an author going completely alone couldn’t do as good a job as would be done by a company like his. But although I didn’t agree with everything he said, I did find the part on marketing useful.

HOW TO WRITE A CRIME NOVEL – this workshop was led by novelist Simon Brett and was great fun. I don’t plan on writing a crime a novel but I was sure I’d learn some more general things. And I did. There were more than forty people in the workshop and with Simon leading us we collaborated on producing the outline of an entire novel in one hour. As I say, it was fun and I picked up some handy tips on plotting.

WHAT PUBLISHERS WANT – this one was led by the owner of a small independent publishing company. It was interesting and informative about the traditional publishing process. But nothing the workshop presenter said led me to believe I’d be any better off being published by her. I sell as many books using my own imprint as most of her authors, so it was worth attending the session just to learn that.

But by far, the best part of the conference for me this year was the time spent talking to fellow writers, some of whom I’ve known for many years, and others who I met for the first time. Writing can be a rather lonely activity so it’s always good to spend time with colleagues and to share experiences. I was able to pass on tips to others and also to pick up new and useful information myself.

And so that’s it for another year. Thanks again to all who organised the conference for a very reasonably priced, well run conference in a perfect setting.

Question for writers: Have you attended any conferences aimed specifically at writers? If so what did you enjoy the most?

 

Read All About It: Writing News

writing desk
Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

It’s some writing news of my own for this week’s post.

Bring on the rewrites

My next book is now with my editor and I’m braced and ready for the rewrites that will inevitably be required. I always think I’ve polished my writing until it cannot be improved before I send it off, but then I get the editor’s comments and realise it’s not perfect after all.

However, I do enjoy the editing process. I like the constructive criticism and I love to see how my writing is improved by rewriting. And even when I don’t at first agree with suggested changes I almost always see that the editor is right after I’ve slept on it.

I call my editor the Alchemist because he takes the base manuscript and gives me the means to turn it into writing gold (she says modestly).

Sequel challenges

Some of you already know that this new book entitled Settlement is the sequel to my most recent novel Displacement. I’ve never written a sequel before and it’s a slightly different process to writing a standalone book. Continuity and consistency in relation to the first book is vital and so is having the story make sense to people who haven’t read the first one without boring those who have. I think I’ve managed it, but I’m sure my editor will pick me up on any failures there.

Next job for Settlement will be cover design. I have a few ideas and will be discussing them with the cover designer very soon.

Next up

And while I await the editorial feedback, I intend to sketch out the third and final part of this series of books and to make some notes for my next children’s book. So, no, there will be no slacking at the writing desk.

Writing conference

However, I will get some time away from the desk this weekend as I’m heading off to the annual conference of the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW). I always enjoy this conference – a whole weekend of workshops, networking and meeting up with writer friends, as well as the announcement of the SAW writing awards for the current year. And the food’s always good too.

I’ll report back on how the conference goes in my next post. Until then I’ll leave you with a question: Do you like reading sequels and/or novel series or do you prefer standalones?

 

No Resolutions but Good Intentions: Writing, Reading and Reflecting in 2018

In spite of the time of year this is not a post about resolutions. I think the other 3Rs that this blog is based on ­- Writing, Reading and Reflecting are quite sufficient.

However, I do want to share with you some of my ongoing plans and intentions for the blog and my writing in general during 2018.

Writing:

The manuscript of my new novel Settlement is almost ready to go off to the editor and is planned for release in the first half of the year.

Settlement is the sequel to Displacement and, as I’ve never written a sequel before, I’ve enjoyed the challenge. It’s been quite a balancing act judging just how much of the back story to include from the original book. I don’t want the new book to seem repetitive to those who’ve read the first one, but neither do I want it to be necessary to have read the first one in order to enjoy the second.

And, as far as writing about my writing here on the blog goes, I plan to continue doing occasional posts on the process of writing, on my works-in-progress, and on my wider writing life.

 

Reading:

I certainly intend to keep reading throughout 2018. I believe it’s vital for writers to be readers too, but even if I gave up writing tomorrow – can’t imagine that happening – I’ll still be reading on my deathbed.

I will also continue to post reviews of books I’ve particularly enjoyed as, apart from wanting to share the love of good books, I also like to do my bit to help my writing colleagues get their work in front of readers. And I find that putting together a review – figuring out what worked in a book and why – helps me improve my own writing skills.

 

Reflecting:

And finally, I also intend to continue to do the occasional reflective post on topics I find myself thinking about and want to explore with readers of the blog. These topics may or may not be directly related to books – but will of course involve writing.

 

Question Time:

I also plan in 2018 to do a bit of a content/function audit of this blog and of my two author websites. As part of that I’d like to seek your much valued and appreciated opinions on various writing/blog related things.

And, as there’s no time like the present I’ll get started on that right away –

Question: I’d be interested to know your opinion on author newsletters. Do you sign up to them and if you do, do you read them? Are you prompted to buy an author’s latest book when you read about it in their newsletter or to respond to offers – such as free short story?

And finally I’d like to wish all readers a happy and healthy 2018.

Breaking Down the Barriers Between Science and the Arts with @SAWTrust

Just before I started to write this post, I was listening to the Andrew Marr Show on BBC Radio 4. The panel of expert guests had been invited to discuss science. Specifically, in a programme entitled From Darwin to Big Data, they were asked to consider whether scientists have failed to communicate their work to the wider public, including specifically to children. And along with that, they were also asked to consider how science is not just a set of logical and rational facts, but that it also links into ‘real’ life. One of the panellists was Richard Dawkins, and he said he’d like to see a more integrated approach to science education and education in general. He said that science should be seen as poetic, soulful and spiritual and as something that’s aesthetically pleasing.  I agree with him.

By one of life’s weird coincidences I recently had the chance to work with the SAW Trust. This amazing charitable organisation shows children, not only the wonders and practicalities of science, but also its connection with the emotional and artistic parts of life. And it does this by bringing together teams of scientists, artists and writers.

Here’s how the SAW (Scientists, Artists &Writers) Trust describes itself on itself on its website

The science, art and writing initiative breaks down traditional barriers between the arts and sciences.

Through creative use of science in the classroom, SAW inspires artistic and scientific endeavour. Children realise that science and the arts are interconnected – and they discover new and exciting ways of looking at the world.

SAW projects are accessible to all ages and abilities. They stimulate exploration, enquiry and creativity.

And they are fun!

And so it was that one day in June, I found myself back at primary school. I was there as part of team along with a scientist and an artist.

I spent the day in the primary six class (eleven-year-olds) at Canal View Primary school in Edinburgh. I was there as a writer, but as a writing tutor rather than as a novelist, and I was there because of an opportunity provided by the SAW Trust and Edinburgh University.

Before the SAW day itself, I’d already attended a training day at the university, followed by a planning meeting with the artist, scientist and class teacher I’d be working with.

The SAW way is that each team chooses a scientific topic, concept or idea on which to base the day. The scientist starts the day off by introducing the chosen topic via a set of activities that all the children in the class take part in. The artist then picks up the topic and uses it to allow the children to create topic-related artwork and finally the writer completes the day by getting the children to respond in writing to what has been experienced and learned throughout the day.

The topic our team decided on was DNA.

First, having been introduced to the concept of DNA via a short, concise and accessible video clip, the children extracted DNA from strawberries. The children were completely engaged throughout and seemed impressed by the foamy, stringy goo that is strawberry DNA. I was equally (if not more) impressed.

Then it was the artist’s turn to lead the activities. The class worked in small groups and each group produced a model of a section of DNA. The sections were then joined together in the double-helix formation of DNA and the long string was hung up across the classroom ceiling.

And finally, it was my turn. After a brief and stimulating discussion with the children about what we’d done so far and some examples from me, the children worked in pairs to produce poems – some rhyming, some not – that expressed their reflections on what they’d learned and how they’d learned it.

At the end of the day, the children applauded and thanked all three of us visiting practitioners and told us they’d ‘had the best day ever’.

I certainly shared that sentiment – also having had an exhausting, but brilliant day.

So thank you SAW Trust and Edinburgh University, and thanks too to Graham the artist, and Daniel the scientist – but most of all – thanks to Mrs M and her wonderful P6 class.

It was a wonderful opportunity and a great day.

 

Amazon Academy for Authors

It’s all very well writing a book and getting it published but it’s not going to find any readers without some well planned and targeted marketing. And like many authors, the whole selling and marketing thing is something I find difficult. It’s not only reaching potential readers that’s daunting, but also how to find the time to do it – especially when I’d rather be writing.

So a couple of weeks ago I was delighted to get the chance to spend the day at a free marketing information event for authors held in Edinburgh’s International Conference Centre.

It was sponsored and run jointly by Amazon and by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLI) and it was excellent. I certainly learned a lot about marketing and can see I need to take a fresh look at what I do in this respect.

As well as the welcome and introduction from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) UK head, Darren Hardy, and author and ALLI representative, Paul Teague, there were four main sessions – and a free lunch.

The programme was as follows:

  • Making a Book
  • How to Write a Bestseller
  • Marketing Your Book
  • Making it Happen – The Business of Being an Author.

All the sessions were well judged as to length and content and all proved informative. The suggestions as to how to best go about marketing were also feasible, sensible and realistic. It was especially reassuring that all the experts who spoke at the event presented their views as based on their personal experience of what works and on their preferred way of working. There was no one right way, one true path, or one size fits all preaching. And because of that it’s probably safe to say that all the delegates got something out of the day that they could take away and use.

I particularly liked and related to author, Linda Gillard’s experience and advice, but also got something from the contributions made by Kindle’s Darren Hardy, and authors Paul Teague, Murray McDonald, Steven McKay and Harriet Smart.

It was good to hear ALLi getting so many favourable mentions throughout the day too. They are a fantastic organisation for authors to belong to and worth every penny of the membership fee.

My advice to fellow authors is that if you get the chance to attend a similar event, go for it. I’d be interested to hear from fellow authors how they feel about marketing and if you’ve attended any training events like the one above. Do leave your comments below.

And, a question for book readers: How do you find out about books you might enjoy reading and what is your preferred method for doing so?

As for me – I’m off to completely rework my marketing plan…